Saturday, October 31, 2009

Smith College Campus School book fair

Grace and I will each be doing a brief presentation and book signing at the Smith College Campus School annual book fair in Northampton on Monday November 2nd. It is free and open to the public so come on by!

Other participating authors and illustrators: Patricia MacLachlan, Heidi Stemple, Rich Michelson, Corinne Demas, Jeannine Atkins,Mo Willems, Marguerite Davol, Barbara Diamond Goldin, Kevin Markey, Michael Nelson, Shelley Rotner, Diane de Groat, Jane Dyer, Brooke Dyer, and Jeff Mack.

Not a bad line-up, eh?

We will each present for ten minutes from 3:00-3:40 pm
Book signing to follow from 3:45-5:00 pm

I made this music video last night, for Halloween

it showcases Mercy Brown's grave--the "vampire" from RI

new video for pop

Friday, October 30, 2009

a reading of aliens

I just found this online:

Aliens are Coming

Slowpoke | MySpace Video

Not broken?

I fell about two weeks ago, and the arm really hurt -- but I figured it was just a bad sprain, and that if I went to the doctor, he would just tell me to ice it, rest, etc. so I figured I'd save the $60 (the cost of a visit to the community health clinic).

But when two weeks had gone by and the pain was getting worse, not better, I called the clinic:
"I think my arm is broken."
"No one can see you today -- the doctor is leaving early and we're very busy."
I asked if they'd call if there was a cancellation, there was, and she did -- twice (on my way there the first time she called to say she was sorry, she'd made a mistake, that appointment had been taken already). But, eventually I did see the doctor, who was was his usual amiable but disinterested self: blabbering on about how he was leaving in a few minutes (it was almost noon), since it was the day "once a week when I take care of my own health needs."

"Once a week!" I said, surprised, and thinking he must have some serious medical condition. "What are you having done?"

"Oh, every week I take half a day for my own mental health--today I'm writing letters...." (blah blah -- by the way this half day is in addition to being off all weekend)

He looked up from his laptop briefly to feel the arm and say it might or might not be broken, and that I'd need to go to the hospital to get x-rays. I drove over there, waited another hour, and filled out more forms while the admins complained about their computer system being down and joked with each other about personal matters. Not one speck of interest shown in me or my arm here either. I finally saw the x-ray technician who greeted me by name, and seemed both competent and interested -- but said that (by law) she wasn't allowed to tell me if the arm was broken or not.

She DID ask me to wait after she'd taken the x-rays, though, and after awhile, came back and said "someone wants to talk to you."

It was an admin from the clinic who said the arm was broken. I asked what to do (cast? splint? sling?) -- she didn't know, but, when pressed by me to ask the doctor, eventually suggested that I drive to a pharmacy where, she said, the doctor would call in a splint or something. She also asked me which orthopedic surgeon I wanted to see, I said I didn't know, could she recommend one? She said she'd get back to me. (She never did.) How much the x-rays cost no one could tell me, since the computers were down, except that there would be two charges, one for the x-rays themselves and one for the radiologist (never seen or talked to by me) who looked at them electronically and ruled on whether or not there was a fracture.

So, I drove to the pharmacy -- nothing had been called in from the doctor and the pharmacist said that clinic was impossible to reach, so we picked out something together ($29) and I drove home. By this time 5 hours had passed. I tried again to call the clinic for a recommendation -- the x-ray technician had said I should see someone: "you're lucky the fracture didn't reach the joint, if it had you'd never bend that arm again."

I called a friend and got HIS recommendation -- if I was going to pay to see an orthopedic surgeon, I wanted to see a good one. The admin said "Can you get here in 15 minutes?" She said she couldn't give directions, she didn't know the area, and was acrimonious when I said in that case, I'd have to call her back once I'd google-mapped it. I did, and we made an appointment -- after she had cautioned me that "it could cost $250, do you have the money?"

All this time, my arm was hurting more and more from the driving and stress.

By the time I had found the surgeon's office, waited another hour, and seen the orthopedic surgeon, the whole day had gone by.....Though I admit that the surgeon WAS very nice, and also reassuring: when you're in pain, and wondering what's wrong, talking to someone who seems to know what he's doing is helpful and calming in and of itself; but he wasn't just knowledgeable, he was NICE. He went over the x-rays with me in detail, explained exactly what was going on, and said I'd done just the right things and that the sling I'd picked out was just fine. He added that the new theory about treating broken bones is not to restrict movement -- in England now they don't even use slings!

"But that's a bit harsh and stiff upper lip."

Luckily, he was with me, still talking, when I went to the front desk to pay and when they said it would be $250, the surgeon said:
"Just charge her for an office visit."
"How much is that?"
"I don't know, ask them in billing."
It was $75.

On the way home, thinking of all the snide comments I've heard against the "public option" and "socialized medicine," I couldn't help thinking of when I broke my arm in Ireland a few years ago. I was riding and when the horse refused a fence, fell forward and landed on my arm. The friend I was with drove me to a small country hospital; within an hour, I had been examined by a very nice doctor, given an x-ray, put in a cast, and sent home. The cost? An optional 15 pounds, which I of course paid. The whole experience was PLEASANT, even cozy (afterwards, my friend and I went to a local pub and had some excellent Irish whisky in front of a peat-burning fire).

Here, if I had health insurance, which I don't, I would be paying at least $600 a month for it -- and would have had to pay everything I paid for the arm anyway, since for $600/month your deductible is pretty high. Our health care system is more broken than my arm (for details., listen to This American Life's Someone else's money and More is less)....

But, I'm happy to say that -- aside from the wasted day yesterday -- this hasn't slowed me down on my novel at all. I sent 80 pages of it to my agent and while waiting to hear what she thinks, am writing more. I've learned my lesson about waiting to hear: DON'T. Keep going, start something else, but keep writing. I read once about an author who said she knew she was a writer when her baby threw up on the page; she just wiped it off and kept going. This broken arm has been that experience for me. I was writing when the clinic called to say they could squeeze me in after all -- and I went on writing when I got home.

POETRY FRIDAY: Song of the Witches

Here's a little Shakespeare that's perfect for reciting at Halloween:

Song of the Witches
by William Shakespeare

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg and howlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Cool it with a baboon's blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.

Last April, I wrote a political parody of Shakespeare’s Song of the Witches that I posted at Political Verses. Here it is:

Stewing Brew: A Macbethian Melange
Pelosi's Pot-au-Pooh-Poohers
by Elaine Magliaro

Round about the cauldron go:
In the pompous lard butt throw.
Rush the bilious radio host—
That’s what needs to cook the most.
In the brimstone broth immersed—
Limbaugh, Limbaugh! Be he first.

You can read the rest of my poem here: Potent Political Pottage a la Shakespeare


At Wild Rose Reader, I have reviews of three poetry books that would be great to share with kids at Halloween.

My poetry post this week at Political Verses is a Paean to a Bovine Beauty.

Jennie has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Biblio File.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

feeling guilt

I've been feeling better for a month or so now, and immediately the guilt is back. I"m talking about the not working 24/7 guilt. I just finished my adult memoir and somehow that isn't enough. Nothing is enough. Watching TV is awful. Eating is awful. Everything I do is awful unless it involves working. I hate it! I work as a cashier 3 days a week. I wish I could take 2 days off like a normal person without that guilt hanging over my head! When I was feeling sick all the time I didn't care about any of it. In fact, I didn't care to update my website or to work on books or anything book related. Now those interests are back, which is good, but as I said above, it comes with a price.

The guilt is back.

Me in the School Library Journal

There's a profile on me in this month's issue of the School Library Journal. While I'm a tad embarrassed by the complimentary things written, I think Robert would've liked it.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Boston Book Festival

I was at the Boston Book Festival last Saturday. It was a packed festival, there were crowds everywhere! I do hope Boston does this event annually.

For me, it was lots of fun meeting up with Scott Magoon and Alice Flaherty:They are the creators of Luck of the Loch Ness Monster: A Tale of Picky Eating. I learned from Alice Flaherty, also a highly respected doctor of neurology, that picky eating is actually a genetic trait. People whose ancestors are from areas where there were many poisonous plants tend to have the gene for picky eating-- a survival of the fittest characteristic!

Afterwards, I caught about 5 minutes of Alicia Silverstone talking about her book on vegetarians. This is as close I got:

Think she'll remember me?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Moses Brown Book fair tomorrow

I will be presenting about my work and signing books at the Moses Brown Book Fair tomorrow, October 28th, in Providence, RI. If you are in the area come say hello! I will be signing Abigail Spells and What Can You Do with and Old Red Shoe? at the fair from 12:30-2:00 pm.

More Disappearing Desmond in progress

The sketch:

First washes of color:

Layering color:

Layering background tones:

More background layers:

Begin painting in figures and trees over new background:

More to come next week!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Good news!

As Grace announced last week, her beautiful novel Where the Mountain Meets the Moon was selected by Al Roker as the December selection for the Today Show Book Club, aka Al's Book Club for Kids. I thought I'd share a little behind-the-scenes look into how this type of good news is shared in the publishing house.

It was Thursday morning around 10:30 am, and I had just gotten out of our weekly editorial meeting. I was in my office chatting with our Library Marketing Director when I heard the sound of running footsteps down the hall. Running footsteps is a sure sign of news--although sometimes bad (for example, something printed incorrectly, what are we going to do?!). Our Publicity Director and Grace's in-house Publicist burst into my office holding a copy of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon with huge smiles on their faces. (Whew, it's good news. But what?) "Today Show book club selection! Today Show Book Club selection!"

Excitement, shock, disbelief, happiness.
"Wait...what? What? Really?!"
Laughter, cheering, yay yay yay! I could hear the news spread down the hall.
What happened?
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is going to be on the Today Show!
No way! Awesome!
"You should tell Grace!" I was told.
"This is Al Roker's Book Club, right?" I asked--I wanted to make sure I told Grace the right thing.
I IMed Grace on Gchat.
: hey, are you there?
grace: yep
me: are you at home? I have good news for you! Should I call your cell?
grace: ok

I got Grace on the line. Our Publicity Director and I told her the news together. I think the first words out of Grace's mouth were, "Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! Really?! Oh my gosh!" as the news sunk in. "I have to tell my mom!" and then later..."What am I going to wear!?" and "How did this happen?!"

This is generally how it works when we hear good news. For example, when we receive the bestseller lists and see that we have a new title make it on, the news spreads down the hall, and people cheer and clap and yell and come out of their offices and cubes to celebrate for a little while. When The Curious Garden hit the list for the first time back in April, our Publisher's Assistant started calling my name while running down the hall. "Alvina! Alvina!" It's especially exciting when it's the first time an author has made it on the list. In the case of Peter Brown, a group of us crowded into my office to hear Peter react to the news. He had been on tour in CA at the time.

I love good news in the office, obviously. Keep it coming!!

And congratulations again, Grace!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

great way to promote an event

I hung out with Dan Santat at the Society of IIlustrators show. It was fun--we both jumped into a pile of trash!

Anyway, check this out. It cracked me out:


Thanks so much for your congrats and nice thoughts about my book being picked for the Today Show Kid's Book Club! I really appreciate it and am truly grateful that so many people wish me well. THANK YOU!

I am scheduled to be on the Today Show on December 4th! That should give me some time to figure out what I want to wear...

Friday, October 23, 2009


I am THRILLED to announce that Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is the December selection for Al Roker’s Kids Book Club on the TODAY SHOW!!!!

POETRY FRIDAY: Double Dactyls

This week I wrote some double dactyls for Tricia’s Monday Poetry Stretch over at The Miss Rhumphius Effect. I decided to use characters from children's literature instead of famous people in the first two double dactyls.

Click here to find information about the double dactyl at the website of the Poetry Foundation.

Three Double Dactyls
by Elaine Magliaro

Higgeldy piggeldy
Max was a “wild thing,”
Got into mischief
Was sent to his room,

Kicked up a rumpus
With like-minded wild things.
Some kiddies go crazy
Once they leave the womb.

Hickory dickory
Charlotte Arachnid—
A writer, a weaver—
Spun tales for her friend,

Wilbur, the runt pig
She nurtured and cherished.
That spider was loyal
And true to the end.

Gravity savity
Isaac, Sir, Newton,
Math’matical genius
And physicist too,

Got into alchemy…
Tried making gold
From a base metal brew.

Click here to read double dactyls written by J. Patrick Lewis, Julie Larios, and me at Political Verses.

Click here to read more double dactyls by Dean Blehert at Words & Pictures.


At Wild Rose Reader, I have an original mask poem entitled Dragonfly.

At Political Verses, I have two new posts this week: A Poem about the Conservative Bible Project and Better Duck...It's Dick: A Poem about Dick Cheney's Hunting Prowess.

Kelly has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Big A, little a.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


I'm trying to re-read my resource material for my book on Balto. I'm SO bored! I feel like taking a nap. The children's book stuff that I have, sadly, is the most boring... especially the chapter books and beginning readers. It's drudgery getting through it. How can kids be expected to learn to read with such dry material? I hope to change this and make my book more exciting... but seriously, this is why I didn't like to read when I was little!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

all in a day's work

So, I had always thought being an author and illustrator meant you would write and draw all day long and all the time. It isn't. Not that I am complaining. But it's surprising how much time I spend NOT doing those things.

I spend a lot of time at book signings(like this one I just had at the Blue Bunny):

making media appearances:

becoming an HONORARY GUY:

Or letting celebrity chef Ming Tsai cook for me:

Yes, yes, it's hard to pull away from the art. But I manage.

(please note that I FINALLY got to wear my blue dress. It's only been waiting for 2 years for the right occasion!)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Desmond painting part 2

Here is the rest of the process for last week's Desmond painting:

Still building layers on the character's faces (maybe the bunny should have spots?):

The word balloons get outlines and the bunny is better grey:

Building up the layers of paint in the word balloons, Desmond's face, and his outfit:

And some final touches... the character's clothes get patterns and "hi" finishes things off:

Of course the painting is never done until the day of the deadline, I still may tweak the colors or add some little details. I was thinking Desmond might need a little something extra to spiff up his outfit. What do you think? A hat or a flower on his sweater vest perhaps?

Monday, October 19, 2009


On cold, rainy Saturday I participated in the Rutgers One-on-One conference out in New Jersey. I believe I had gone to this conference twice before, but not for a few years. It really is a great conference, and the set-up is unique from any other I've been to. Each mentor (editor, agent, or published author or illustrator) is paired with one mentee. The mentees are all carefully screened, and I've found that across the board, the quality of writing is much higher at this conference than any other. My mentee from my first year, Marie Lamba, is now published, and at the conference I was informed that another mentee's first novel is coming out next year.

Five of us from Little, Brown were attending, and so we piled into a Zipcar and caravaned over. The morning was kicked off with breakfast (agent Barry Goldblatt made fun of my choice of a blueberry bagel. I like blueberry bagels, bright purple color and all!), and the mentors and mentees are in different rooms. This is to give the mentor time to review the mentee's work in advance, and to also network and chat with our fellow mentors. We then came together for opening remarks, and then mentors and mentees broke off to meet for 45 minutes one-on-one. This time can be used to critique the work, but can also just be to chat, talk about the business, answer questions, etc. This year, I was matched with a talented author/illustrator. I was especially enthralled by the maps she creates--she called illustrating maps her "day job." The 45 minutes flew by.

A panel discussion followed. This year, the topic was "Staying Power in Children's Literature" moderated by agent Rachel Orr. The panelists were author/illustrator Peter Catalanotto, Publisher of Marshall Cavendish Margery Cuyler, Digital Books Coordinator at Disney Publishing Worldwide Colin Hosten, and Emily Sylvan Kim, Agent at Prospect Agency. They discussed what is necessary to have both a lasting career, and to create a lasting book. They discussed how to last through this economic downtrend, and the effect of new technology on the industry. Margery stated that she's been through two economic downturns already in her career, and that this one too would end. She said that publishers are being more selective about buying books, and there may be more revising before contract than usual. (I've certainly found this to be the case at L,B.) Many felt that eBooks were the future, although to varying degrees. And everyone said that good stories are lasting.

Lunch was followed by the five-on-five meetings--five pairs of mentor-mentees join together in a group that is led by a facilitator. Again, it's mainly Q&A. In my case, all of the mentees were illustrators, so at the end of our time they put out their portfolios, and we went around and reviewed them all. I always love looking at art, and everyone was quite skilled.

And finally comes the keynote. This year, the keynote was Judy Freeman, children's literature consultant. Judy is a former children's school librarian, and served on the Newbery Committee in 1990. I've met Judy many times throughout the years--she does fabulous book talks, and is known to be a "big mouth" in the industry--if you're lucky enough to have written or edited a book that she gets excited about, your book will no doubt find an audience. She travels all over the country talking to kids, educators, writers, etc. Her presentations are lively, interactive, funny, and informative.

In this case, I was shocked when one of her slides featured my personal blog with the post Decline Letters 101! I must say, it was odd, but fun, to see my blog on the big screen. Later she book talked Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (yay!), saying that she adored it and hoped it would have a medal on the cover come next year. She also mentioned Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein, illustrated by Ed Young--she showed some gorgeous collages and haikus that students of a class had created in honor of Wabi Sabi. Amazing. After the talk, people came up to me to ask how much I had paid Judy to include my books and blog--ha.

It was also lovely to have many people (including many mentors) come up to me to say that they follow me on Twitter or read my blogs. Hello, everyone, nice to meet you and chat!

And then the day was over. I have to say, I felt quite drained after the conference--last week had probably been the busiest week of the year for me, and this week is looking to be the second-most busy. But still, it was a great day, and I'm glad I went. Next up for me will be SCBWI conferences in Tokyo (Yokohama) and Hong Kong in November! Stay tuned...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

2009 Keene State College Children's Literature Festival

In two weeks, I’ll be heading up to New Hampshire for the Keene State College Children’s Literature Festival.

Look at the fabulous lineup of children’s authors and illustrators who will be the featured speakers this year:

Lita Judge
Beth Krommes
Lois Lowry
Katherine Paterson
Jane Yolen

Festival Information
Date: Saturday, October 31, 2009
Place: Keene State College in Keene, New Hampshire
Conference Registration: $72
Lunch: $8.00
Daily Schedule: Click here.
Registration Form: Click here.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Blogging My Poetry

NOTE: Blogging My Poetry was previously posted at Wild Rose Reader in September.

When I began blogging at Wild Rose Reader in April 2007, there was something I had to seriously consider: Would it be wise to post my original unpublished poems there? At the time, I remember other writers who blog discussing the subject of putting our work “out there” without getting paid for it. Some thought it would be unwise. Even though I realized it might not be the smartest thing to do—I decided to post dozens of my original poems at Wild Rose Reader anyway.

Of the original poems I’ve posted there:

  1. Some were written for Tricia’s weekly Poetry Stretches at The Miss Rumphius Effect.
  2. Some were written specifically for posting at Wild Rose Reader.
  3. Some were written for poetry collections that still remain unpublished.

I asked myself: Would any editors be interested in publishing a poetry collection when some of its poems had already been published on my blog? Would any anthologist/publisher ever pay me for permission to use any of these poems in anthologies?

I can answer the second question in the affirmative. Earlier this year, Graham Denton, a poet/anthologist in the UK, asked permission to use a poem I had posted at Wild Rose Reader in 2007 in an anthology he is compiling. The poem will be included in My Cat Is in Love with the Goldfish and Other Loopy Love Poems. That book is due for release next February. I also received a request from a well-known poet/anthologist who lives in the United States in August. The anthologist asked if he could use two of my poems in a special project that is being published in conjunction with The Academy of American Poets. Hooray!!! That book will be published next April.

Once I started posting my original work at Wild Rose Reader I never looked back. I love writing poetry. I enjoy sharing my poetry with kidlit bloggers, poets, writers, teachers, and other visitors who stop by to read it. After all, I write because I want to share my creative thoughts with others—and once in a while, it actually pays off!


I have three original witch poems over at Wild Rose Reader.

At Political Verses, I have a double dactyl written by Julie Larios.

Laura Purdie Salas has the Poetry Friday Roundup this week.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

growing up

One of the greatest, unplanned consequences of my expansion from picturebooks to novels has been that my books have kept pace with my readership. Once, a woman said to me, "My kids have grown up with your books," and it struck me as perhaps the best moment in my career.

Because it is, actually, true. Children that I signed picturebooks who now find them too young are now reading my novels, as if I made them specifically FOR them. And who is to say that I did not? Maybe the creative muse sometimes does take orders.

Most recently, I visited Charlotte, NC for the Novello Festival of Reading. It was great fun, but one of the highlights was catching up with a family that I had met during my first visit at Novello--some 4 years ago. The toddler whom I had signed picturebooks for was now a smart and pretty girl who reads my novels!

And at my booksigning at the Toadstool Bookshop I met up with some other "old" fans.

They were so old, that one mother sent me a photo of the first time we met.

Isn't that neat? I guess I should start thinking about writing teenage YA. I think I could write about vampires............just joking!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Another Desmond painting in progress

Thanks to all who came out for the RISD sale on Saturday, it was a great day. Be sure to join Grace and I at the holiday sale in December!

Now back to painting (deadline is ticking)...

Here is the sketch I started with, its a new Desmond after he has given up hiding for the joys of friendship:

After transferring the general shapes of the sketch (so I know where to put the highlights and shadows), I started on the background, a nice green:

No, green is not good. No green. How about orange:

Better I think. Warmer and more celebratory. Now the characters get their first wash of color (after I transfer the sketch once again):

Word balloons too:

Starting to layer the color in Desmond's outfit, and some of the faces:

Stay tuned for more next week!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Decline letters 101

Oh, decline letters. How we all hate them. I hate writing them, authors and agents hate receiving them.

I thought I'd demystify decline letters a bit--I would say that there are 6 basic types of decline letters I send:

1) Form letter:
This is a generic letter that it not personalized to the sender at all. This letter used to be reserved for slush (unsolicited) manuscripts that I knew immediately I was going to decline. However, because we no longer accept slush, I don't use this letter much. We do have a form letter we send to unsolicited manuscripts that simply states our policy of not reviewing those manuscripts. In case you're curious, this is the basic wording of our form letter:

Thank you for submitting your manuscript to me for my consideration. I've now read it with interest but am sorry to say my enthusiasm for this project is not strong enough to suggest we could take it on and publish it successfully on our list.

Your materials are returned herewith. I do appreciate the opportunity to consider your work and wish you the best of luck in finding a good publishing home for it.

2) Personalized form letter: This is the form letter, but with your name and title of the manuscript put into the letter. I actually send very few of these--like form letters, they're reserved for the projects that I know from the first few lines that my answer is going to be no, but the difference is that this letter is for solicited projects. I only use this letter for those authors or agents that I have no personal connection to, and don't care to necessarily have future contact with--for example, authors from a writer's conference who had queried me, but for whom I have no recollection of meeting (didn't have a critique with, didn't ask me a question at my talk, etc.), or agents who I suspect are "fake" agents due to the quality of work they submit. I think my basic form letters are very nice, but if you receive one, you can be fairly certain that I did not personally like your project.

3) Nice decline:
This is the personalized form letter, but with one or two lines that are specific to the work. For example, I may have a line that says something like, "Although I found your novel to be fun and compelling, I'm sorry to say that your characters felt too one-dimensional, and overall I just didn't love this enough to want to take on my list..." etc. etc. This is the decline I use most often--I use this for almost all agents, and also those authors who I have some personal connection to. The more I write, the more promise I saw in the work.

4) Nice decline with invitation to submit future work: This is the letter I use if I saw true talent in the writing, and feel that it was more of a matter of not liking the subject matter or plot of a book, but had confidence that the author's grasp of the craft of writing was strong.

5) Nice decline with editorial notes: I write this type of decline if I see real potential in both the concept and the writing, but yet do not have the time or willingness to give more feedback than I already have in the letter. But this decline is generally accompanied with an expression of my being open to review the project again if it is revised along the lines of my notes.

6) Nice decline with detailed comments, plus an offer to provide a full editorial letter and/or have a phone call regarding a revision with the author: If I write this type of letter, I not only see promise in the project, but am also excited to work with the author on a revision if given the opportunity.

If you receive letters 1-3, I'm not expecting or hoping to see more work by you/the author in the future. If you receive 4-6, then I do hope to read more from you in the future. If you receive letter 6, I'm willing to commit to revising with you just as I would a project that is already under contract, and am welcome to making the process an ongoing conversation.

Any questions? Ask away! But I also have a few questions for you:

If you're an author or agent, which would you prefer:

A) getting a decline letter within a week of submitting the project, with little or no personalization to the letter
B) waiting 4-6 months (or longer) for a decline letter with more detailed, constructive comments

Also, I'm curious--do you hold on to your decline letters? Burn them? Post them to your blog?

Wouldn't it be a nicer world if nobody had to write OR receive these letters? Alas. But if you think of decline letters as a stepping stone to publication, that may make receiving them that much easier.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Let me count the ways

"I was at that stage of life when one has written a novel or two...."

--from the autobiography of Anthony Powell, author of A Dance to the Music of Time, one of the greatest novels ever written in my opinion -- and that of quite a few literary critics, too! He goes on to say that few people realize that authors -- authors like him who are reviewed in the London Times, fairly well known, getting good reviews -- make from their writing, and to say what HE was making then (about a hundred pounds a year!) and to list the ways he supported himself and his family.

My list is quite a bit longer (and of course I'm not saying I'm as good a writer as Anthony Powell!) -- but here all the jobs I've ever had, in chronological order, my version of the looking-back 10 years the other BRGs did awhile ago.


swimming teacher at country club

counselor at camp for state-run camp kids from Harlem and Bedford Stuyvesant

gas station attendant

factory worker (in Providence, at a factory that made display cases for costume jewelery)

soap opera script writer

author of short story in REDBOOK

creative drama teacher at local Y



editorial assistant, then editor, at small academic press
freelance proofreader and editor through the Word Guild
--while doing these two was also a live-in nanny: niether job paid enough to live on! So much for the "good old days" in publishing

TA at Brown

instructor at RISD (2nd longest job, lasted 5 years!)

instructor at Harvard Summer School

writing teacher at DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation)

freelance writer:
--in Boston:
-Harvard School of Public Health, Bachman Information Systems, Arthur D.Little (favorite job ever: a mathematic genius there told me his ideas and I wrote them up in a way that could be understood by others -- this was a final report on a project which they needed to get refunding. Yay! The Air Force refunded it!), MUMPS Collaborative
--in California:
mid-Peninsula Open Spaces, NeXT computer, Facility Planning News

hostess at California vineyard

stablehand for woman who exercised her horses wearing diamonds! This was weird!

secretary at law office -- also weird! The whole town (well, 109 people) was engaged in a massive lawsuit, over the right to ride on what had formerly been horse trails open to everyone. New Money had put up locks; everyone in town took sides in this matter when a rider and a property owner came to blows....this was in Woodside, California.

secretary in Physics Department of Stanford University (2nd favorite job ever: had my own little sunny bright yellow office with a view of the Palo Alto Hills, everyone I worked with was really really smart, especially my boss)

writer for Fidelity Investments Web site (longest job: eight years. Also most lucrative --$100,000/year. Is it crass to say this?)

children's book author (soon will have been doing this longer than I worked at Fidelity, yay! And while doing this I have been/am also a:)

freelance editor/ghostwriter for adults writing self-help books

spy (pretend, for the Go Game. Still, I did wear a trenchcoat, sunglasses and say a secret password--unfortunately not at a dark bar as I had imagined but in the closest thing Mystic has to a hippy hangout)

ghostwriter/work-for-hire author for children's books

babysitter--becoming favorite-job-ever, but perhaps it's too soon, and bad luck to boot, to say that. I do love my kids, though.

Friday, October 09, 2009

After Apple Picking by Robert Frost

I’m in an autumny mood today. Over at Wild Rose Reader, I’ve posted a bunch of poems about October. For Blue Rose Girls, I’ve selected a poem by Robert Frost for you.

After Apple Picking
by Robert Frost

My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.

You can read the rest of the poem here.

At Wild Rose Reader, I have poems about October.

Anastasia Suen Has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Picture Book of the Day.

Thursday, October 08, 2009


I'm in waiting mode. The thing that sucks about being self employed is that normally having nothing to do should be wonderful. I, however, feel guilty. I should be working - is what my brain normally says. I turned in the dummy to my book a while ago and I"m playing the waiting game, as some of you may know of. I could start a new project, which I sort of have, but I don't want to get too into it. If I do I"m afraid I'll lose my gusto for the book I should be working on... the one under contract. The way I operate is that I become immersed in the subject. I obsess. I drown myself in data and images. If I start something else I'll start to forget... or at least that's what i"m afraid of.

So, I"m going to the gym. Getting in better shape is something I can do without worrying about the above.

What do you guys do when you're in this situation?


Wednesday, October 07, 2009


It's time! Remember this?

Well, it's time to pick the final winners! Time to pick the last winner of the $25. monthly gift certificate and a GRAND PRIZE WINNER. This GRAND PRIZE WINNER will get their likeness painted in my next book!

It seemed apropos that the baby that so beautifully advertised my contest should be the one to choose the winners. So, after making the additional fortune cookies, I offered them to baby Maia.

She was rather suspicious:
Even with much urging, she regarded the fortune cookies with doubt:
and caution:
Finally, to give her the idea, I decided to pick one.

So the winner of the last $25. gift certificate is.... LISA SISCO! Congrats Lisa!

Picking Lisa's name made Maia more adventuresome. I think Maia is now ready to pick THE GRAND PRIZE WINNER...

YES! Who did she pick?

Congrats! Your girls will now have their likeness painted in my upcoming book! Yay!

Hmm, Maia doesn't seem too happy for you. Don't take it personally, I think she's just realized that the fortune cookies aren't edible.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

RISD Sale this Saturday

I'll be signing books and selling prints of my illustrations at the RISD Alumni Sale this Saturday October 10th on Benefit Street in Providence, RI. Come by and say hi if you are in the neighborhood! Lots of great handmade stuff for sale.

The sale runs 10-4 rain or shine.
Call 401 454-6618 for more info.

Interview with Maurice Sendak about Spike Jonze and the Wild Things

To continue in the vein of Alvina's post yesterday, a video for your enjoyment! I watched this on Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast yesterday and boy did it give me chills. Every time I see a preview or a clip online about Wild Things I get excited.

Its just so inspiring to see that a) after all his great success and fame, Sendak not at all possessive about his book, that he is excited about collaboration and sharing his vision, b) Spike Jonze seems to have used the same layered, collage-like aesthetic in Adaptation and Being John Malkovich to speak to kids- it just feels so perfectly suited to the confusing, frightening, fantastical time that is childhood and c) the book got BAD reviews at first, panned, it took two years before people caught on.

It is truly humbling to think the impact one book can have. And it just makes me antsy to make something that might move someone just a fraction of the amount I feel moved by Maurice Sendak's work. Though that achievement often feels far out of reach. I saw Maurice Sendak speak at MIT a couple years ago, when he said something to the gist of "I can't believe any good books can come out of the publishing industry the way it is now." Heh. Well one can still hope.

(Sorry about the ad)

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Video Monday

For today's post, I thought I'd take a page from Fuse #8's Video Sunday and recommend some videos for your entertainment. The first is an absolutely joyful student-made one-camera video to the Black Eyed Peas "I Gotta Feeling":

The second is the first of three pitch videos for Sesame Street, made back in 1968. I love how Kermit is such a hippie. Groovy!

(Thanks to Gothamist for the link, you can see links to the other parts here.)

The last two videos are from me.

Two weekends ago I went on a long bike ride around Manhattan, and randomly came upon what appeared to be a unicycle meet-up of some sort. What was great is that the riders all seemed to be teens:

And finally, some of you know that I rode the MS Ride yesterday. I did this ride in 2005 and loved going through the Lincoln Tunnel. Yesterday I went through the tunnel again and took this video. Warning: I wasn't very good about keeping the camera steady, so for those of you who get motion sickness (Grace), you may not want to watch:

Have a great week, all!

Friday, October 02, 2009

POETRY FRIDAY: Autumn Acrostics

Elaine Magliaro
Animals get ready for winter--slip
Under stones, hide in hollow logs, bury
Themselves in pond bottoms. The
Underlife of leaves bursts forth in a
Myriad of colors and they dazzle like jewels on a
Necklace of trees.
Must fly south
Into the sun…must
Get going…before Mother Nature
Raises her icy hands
And frosts
This world
In white. Follow me
On the wing to a land that does
Not know the chill of winter
Like baby birds
Eager to test their wings
A scarlet flock takes flight in a silent
Valediction to summer.
Earthbound, they
Settle into autumn, curl up from the cold.
Crimson and gold, pumpkin
Orange, lemon yellow, burnt sienna...
Leaves don their autumn finery in
October to celebrate the season.
Restless breezes set them dancing,
Swirling through air like a rainbow of dervishes.

At Wild Rose Reader, I have a review of Alice Schertle’s book of mask poems, Button Up! Wrinkled Rhymes.

Kelly Herold has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Crossover this week.